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My Dale Carnegie Experiments: Putting ‘How to Win Friends’ Into Action

Like millions before me I read How to Win Friends and Influence People and was blown away by the power of this book. I can’t believe that I hadn’t read it until recently and feel like I have wasted some precious opportunities to optimize certain situations in life.

Some of the stories in the book were so incredible that they seemed almost too good to be true.  I finished the book with two questions:

  • Will this work for me?
  • How can I optimize my life while also optimizing the lives of those around me?

I decided to put Dale’s teachings to good use and start experimenting with new approaches to everyday situations. I like to call these my “Dale Carnegie experiments,” and will update this series as time goes on.

carnegie experiments

The fish and chip experiment

Here in the UK, fish and chip shops are very popular, especially on a Friday night! After a super fun day working with the Buffer team I ravenously trawled through various take-away sites to order fish and chips for me and my girlfriend, Elly.

Expected delivery time: 45+ minutes. What could I do?

I then remembered a fascinating chapter in the book where Dale Carnegie explains the principle of “Giving the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”

This got me thinking.

Once I had ordered the food, I decided to put a different spin on the ‘delivery notes’ box at the end.

Instead of typing “Please deliver to Carpark 3” I wrote

“Hi! Please deliver the food to Carpark 3. I loved your fish and chips last time I ordered and can’t wait to eat them! ☺

25 minutes later I got a phone call from the delivery driver. Not only was this 20 minutes earlier than anticipated but I was received by the owner of the chip shop himself. He got out of the car with a huge smile and gave me a MASSIVE plastic bag. “I have given you a few extras,” he said as he handed it to me. He had indeed given us lots of extras and we couldn’t eat it all!

Not only had I received an excellent level of service, but I had made this gentleman genuinely proud of his trade. He had gone above and beyond for me just because I mentioned that his food tasted great last time. This was a win-win, I think, and both parties left this feeling great about themselves!

The Airbnb experiment

I love Airbnb. I use it religiously whenever I travel and have been a super fan since it first launched in the UK.

About 6 weeks ago, I requested an Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen only to have my request turned down by the host because of an overbooking. I then proceeded to have a bout of bad luck with the following 2 hosts having the same issue. No one was to blame here; it was just part of the game.

I did find, however, that every time I made a request, the full price for my trip was withdrawn from my account despite the trips never happening. By doing this 3 times I had $1000+ missing and no apartment.

I couldn’t afford to have this money in escrow for a couple of weeks, so I decided to reach out to their support team. In the past I might have complained angrily and demanded my money back, but what would that achieve? This time, I thought to myself, “What would Dale Carnegie do in this situation?”

“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

These words made me realize that anger, disappointment or any kind of negativity would only make the situation worse. When I reached out via livechat I made sure to compliment Airbnb on their wonderful service before raising my problem as a “mere mishap.”

A lovely lady called Su got back to me almost immediately, and I could tell that she was really happy to help me. She gave me her personal contact details over live chat and spent the following 3 days being incredibly helpful. Su would follow up with me daily, and every interaction between us was full of smiles and words of kindness.

Su does a fantastic job for a fantastic company, so why should I make her feel bad about her day? Mistakes happen, and looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Thanks, Su, wherever you are in the world ☺

My learnings

These are just a couple of examples of how simple changes in my approach to situations have been hugely successful for all parties involved.

I am excited to share more stories with you as I find new and better ways to deal with people. I am trying to leave no room for resentment and negativity despite being quite an emotional chap!

I am sure that Dale would be thrilled to witness the fruits of his labors even on such a small scale. This book has given me a new approach to life, and I think that we all strive to please those around us as much as we want to please ourselves. I reckon books like this help motivate us to put these wonderful thoughts into action.

Have you ever tried a deliberate and positive approach to interactions with others? How did it go? I’d be keen to hear your experiences and thoughts on How to Win Friends and Influence People in the comments.

  • Incredible examples of how to put the approach of Dale Carnegie into real life Thomas. Thanks for that. I’m looking forward to more examples of these :) By putting this into my life I have experienced more pleasurable experiences, talks and interactions. Even when you approach someone and he is angry from the start, but you stay calm, smile and give him some love and appreciation, it always helps and turns the person into a better mood instantly. All it takes is to make someone important and care about the moment. Be present.
    Looking forward for the comments of others :)

    • Thomas

      Thanks so much Petr :) That’s really kind of you to say and you make a great point about staying calm and giving someone love and appreciation even in a difficult and uncomfortable situation. Would love to hear any examples of how this has worked for you :) I can definitely improve a lot in this area and have been working on dealing with ‘angry’ situations too!

      • Thanks Thomas :) I’ve noticed that the most negative/angry/upset/yelling ones are the ones who need the love the most.
        When you always shift your experience and point of view to the other person you’re talking to, there are always many ways he could have the reason why he/she behaves like this. Maybe it is a family struggle, previous bad experience, bad day, bad health, lack of confidence.
        If they see you calm, smiling and willing to listen and help, they’ll always see the little light behind it and think about it immediately or later at home. By this we’re all making the world a better place to live, right? :)

        • Thomas

          That’s a great point Petr :) I think it’s so important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes like that and your approach of positivity and calmness sounds amazing! If I was having a rough day I would be very grateful for someone taking this approach with me and thankfully this happens often :)

  • Really enjoyed this post – would love to read more :)

    (After writing this I realized it might qualify as “Giving the other person a fine reputation to live up to”, but that wasn’t by design :D)

    • Thomas

      Hey Henrik thanks a lot for the kind words :) So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Lauren

    What a great article, Thomas – I loved these stories. How great that you got extras with your fish and chips, too – nice.

    I’ve never read the book but I’m definitely intrigued even further, now.

    A few roles ago as a content manager at a flowers and gifting company, I took it upon myself to chat with customers who had a complaint but couldn’t get through to the busy customer services team. In my email responses (despite not being trained in customer services) I just asked myself what I would want to hear if I was in their shoes. I responded by being fair, but adding a massive dose of empathy, telling them it ‘upset me that the company had failed to deliver what it intended on this occasion, etc etc.’ It worked and everyone was happy. I even received a huge collection of really touching emails, which to this day I have kept.

    Great work Thomas, keep it up!

    • Thomas

      Wow Lauren that’s so awesome! Love how you took the initiative to train yourself like this and look at the situation from the customers shoes :) This is definitely something I could do a lot better with :) Must feel so awesome to get emails like that! Thanks for reading and sharing this with me :)

  • Amber

    I am just now reading this book. Good stuff! I think trying to see the other person’s point of view is really important. Great article!

    • Thomas

      Thanks for the kind words Amber :) Would love to hear how you find it!

  • One of my favorite books, Thomas. I get a lot of insight from it every time I read it.

    Your Airbnb experiment was particularly interesting to me. I tend to be short and impatient with support people when I call. I need reminders like this to slow down and see things from their side.

    In the case of my internet company that goes down frequently. After 30 minutes on hold before the rep answered this morning, I had to run out the door to drop my oldest at school. I needed to take my cell phone with me and the rep could neither make outbound calls nor receive them directly. It wasn’t her fault and I understood that so there was no reason to be upset.

    Before I make calls like these I need to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thomas

      Hey Justin cheers :) It’s fascinating that you have read it multiple times and I really need to do the same I think!

      That’s an awesome example and I can imagine it was super stressful for both parties there! I know what you mean about being short and impatient too. In the past I feel almost as if support staff were positioned as ‘the enemy’ or ‘the gatekeeper’ in my head for some reason and felt naturally quite hostile which isn’t good at all! I often forget to personify situations in my life and realise that I’m not the only person with challenges and problems :) Thanks for sharing Justin this it has given me lots of interesting things to think about!

  • Rick Yvanovich

    Wow Thomas what a fantastic post, I really like the blogs from the Buffer team but this one stands out as one that truly resonates, so THANK YOU

    – it’s great when someone shows real examples of how learnings from a book can be applied in daily life and in your case how the wisdom in Dale Carnegie’s classic, still holds true and how applicable it is to absolutely everyone.

    • Thomas

      I really appreciate the kind words Rick :) It is such a great book and I can’t believe I didn’t read it earlier in life! I would love to read more of his books too!

      • Rick Yvanovich

        Thanks Thomas – have you read The Slight Edge, absolutely THE best book I’ve ever read. I have a feeling it will resonate well with you (& the Buffer Team) too.

        • Thomas

          I haven’t! Will order it on Amazon Rick :) Thanks for the heads up!

  • I’m impressed with the results you got applying these simple principles. I guess it is so rare now for customer service people to receive compliments or meet patient / nice people that a little effort does make a difference :).

    About Airbnb I had the same experience booking an apartment in Paris recently (luckily it happened only once). From now on, I message the renters before clicking the booking button. It turns out a lot of them deal with bookings this way.

    • Thomas

      Thanks Aurelie :) I can’t count the times where I have been frustrated and impatient with support staff and in hindsight I was only making the situation much worse and was only thinking about myself.

      Oh that’s awesome! I have started doing the same :) How was your Paris trip? I love spending time there!

      • I also get really frustrated, luckily I hate conflict and I always end up being pleasant with even the rudest people. I always thought it was a flaw of mine, it might just be a blessing in disguise :D.

        I’m going to Paris at the end of June (I thought I would book the Airbnb in advance :D). I can’t wait to go, I never really had the chance to be a real tourist in Paris before. Would you recommend any more less known but interesting places to go there?


        • Thomas

          That does indeed sound like a blessing Aurelie :) I would love to improve and develop an approach like yours!

          Oh wonderful! There is so much to see and do :) I really enjoyed going out in the Latin quarter at night time and it was awesome sitting on the bank of the Seine with a bottle of red wine next to Notre Dam at night too :)

          I also found the catacombs really interesting if you don’t mind seeing millions of skeletons! If you love art then there are countless museums (I particularly enjoyed the George Pompidou Centre, the Louvre and the War museum) and so much amazing food!

          Sorry for the essay! There is lots to do and I think there is something for everyone’s tastes :) It is very touristy and to be honest, I have always spent a week or so there instead of living there for extended periods of time so have a tourist bias :) I hope this helps and I’m excited for your adventure in June!

          • Haha I am ashamed to admit that I actually lived there for 2 months and never took the time to really enjoy the city.
            It’s often like that. Tourists know the city you live in far better than you do :D.

            I really like the George Pompidou Centre as well. It’s my favorite museum in Paris.
            I really need to spend time in the Latin quarter. I’ve heard a lot about it but never went. And I’m intrigued by the catacombs now.

            I can’t wait to go, you got me even more excited.

          • Thomas

            It’s an awesome building right! So whacky! Excited to hear how it goes! Just followed you on Twitter :)

      • Brendan Hufford

        I know it sounds wild, but I always acknowledge to support staff that I’m sure they get yelled at all day, I appreciate what they do, and I hope our conversation is the highlight of their day. It’s silly but I genuinely think it helps balance things out for them :)

  • Rose Reeder

    .Thomas, this is excellent for you to take the time to share your positive experiences from a book that is well-known but dated. (A lot of young people cannot relate to the language that used)

    I read the book at least 15 times and give it to others as a gift, my gift to mankind. My friends hate it when we are having a discussion about someone and I reason that person is young. When I say that I am thinking about the chapter of not expecting everyone to relate to our experiences especially if they have not walked in our shoes. Invariably I get the remark, they are not that young. It always makes me smile because you can’t expect younger people to know what you know. I plan on following this to see how you make it relatable to millenniums. I got a 25 year old listening to as he drives around in New Jersey. Much success as your share your experiences. :-)

    • Thomas

      Hey Rose, That’s really kind of you to say :) Thanks so much! That’s such a great thought about the new generation (us!) and how accessible and relatable principles like this are now these days. I think the most hard hitting part of the book was the ‘Father Forgets’ story because it made me realise that I have been treating so many wonderful people in my life with impatience that was really unfair. I hope your son enjoys the book and thanks for sharing these thoughts with me :)

      • Rose Reeder

        Thanks for responding Thomas. The 25 year old is a friend who I recently found out is from Poland and came to America at the age of 9 years old. He is working as the assistant for Kevin Brown aka Dot Com of the comedy 30 Rock and I am the Director of Marketing/Public Relations.

        • Thomas

          Apologies for my confusion there Rose! wow that sounds like a super exciting place to work! :)

  • Carlos Lemos

    This is great Thomas, one of the big take aways of this book is to literally put yourself in others shoes and always try to be nice to the person in the other side, whatever the situation. This are such a simple procedures that can remove a lot of conflict in everyones life, just imagine the butterfly effect, of that two actions, you made the day of the guy at chips and fish, he was probably very nice with his workers and probably told the story to his family that received a good wave of positivity, his workers, probably were less stressed, because his boss was less stressed, so when they got to their families they received less stress, so they were nicer to each other, etcetera, all of this with some simple actions that makes our life easier and as a secondary effect, makes a lot of people happier.

    • Thomas

      Hey Carlos! Really appreciate the kind words :) Love your point about the butterfly effect and how positive actions can spread even further! I didn’t think about that and has made me realise that these kind of interactions are even more powerful than I previously thought! Would love to stay in touch and hear about your experiments and experiences too! Have a great weekend dude

  • This is such an insightful post, Thomas :) I have also recently discovered Dale Carnegie and its been a huge revelation. My last “experiment” was at a coffee shop where the barista made my coffee in a to-go cup instead of in a proper cup. Instead of saying he’d made a mistake, I made sure to “not criticize” and “give sincere appreciation”, so I simply told him how his coffee is the highlight of my morning and I like to sit down and savor it in a proper cup, so if it’s no trouble, could he just decant it? He gave me a huge grin (coming from an SF hipster!!) and meticulously re-made me a whole new coffee, for free! Even better, now we have friendly chats whenever I visit which brings so much joy :)

    • Thomas

      Wow Katie that’s an amazing story! :) I am sure that made his day too and so wonderful to see how it created a friendlier and stronger relationship between you both! Thanks so much for the kind words and for sharing this with me :)

  • Elias Sfeir

    Thanks for sharing you experiences with us :) I’m almost done reading the book and loving it

  • pmutatkar

    This is awesome! Something as simple as keeping in mind that “a person’s name is the sweetest sound” has made a profound difference in my interactions with people.

  • Dan Elson

    Love this! Shared post in 2015 and will share again in 2017!

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